The Warren County commissioners sent Lebanon and county staff back to the drawing board Tuesday, rather than approve a tax abatement sought on a $30 million assisted living center development.
The commissioners said they were not ready to approve the the county tax incentive sought by the city on behalf of an Indianapolis developer.
The commissioners urged Lebanon to consider creating an enterprise zone to subsidize the development proposed by the Leo Jacobs Group on 18 acres off Neil Armstrong Way.
“I’d be happy to look at this if the city of Lebanon can’t do this,” Commissioner Tom Grossmann said, in comments echoed by the other two commissioners.
An Indianapolis company wants to build a $30 million, 142-unit assisted living community in Lebanon, including 30 units for memory care.
The 10-year, 50% abatement would have related to the $10.5 million assisted living-memory care building, just south of the Franklin Road-Ohio 123 intersection with Armstrong Way.
The tax savings is projected at slightly more than $1 million over 10 years.
After being rebuffed, at least temporarily, Bill Morton, vice president of development for the Leo Brown Group, said he was unsure how the company would proceed.
“We’re still in our due diligence period. We don’t know,” Morton said.
City Manager Scott Brunka told the commissioners the city council and staff saw the project as a new amenity for residents.
“We see this as an opportunity for our residents to stay in the city of Lebanon,” Brunka said.
Brunka also said the proposal was preferable to a single-family development in terms of added traffic or pressure on the school district. He projected the developer faced $6 to $7 million in added costs due to grade changes on the land.
Mike Wagner, president of the development company, said it had been looking for a suitable location in Lebanon “for quite some time” and pointed to the added expense of grading on the property, the last large, undeveloped parcel on the west side of Neil Armstrong Way, a new section of road running north from Ohio 63.
“This is something that is needed,” even with Otterbein SeniorLife’s main retirement campus about four miles away, Wagner added.
“Faith-based, not-for-profit, Otterbein has been here for 107 years (and counting), provides a much wider array of services, and have added value, new buildings, services and residents throughout the last decade,” said Gary Horning, vice president of marketing and communications for Otterbein.
Brunka said the city typically offered incentives through community reinvestment areas established in blighted areas of the city.
“It doesn’t fit our typical model,” he said.
In Lebanon, a tax incentive zone has been set up along Broadway, north of downtown. The 511 No. Broadway redevelopment is to include apartments, condominiums, bars and restaurants, a park and on-street parking.
Rather than turn to the city, Assistant County Prosecutor Bruce McGary said the city could set up an enterprise zone for the assisted living development, although there is already an enterprise zone set up there by the county covering the entire city.
County Economic Development Director Matt Schnipke is expected to contact the Ohio Department of Development Services about the city and county having enterprise zones in the same area.
“We’re not slamming the door,” Commissioner Dave Young said.
Commissioner Shannon Jones said she felt the city would be better to form the zone itself, but wanted to help “figure out a path forward” for the project.
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